Palace 1-0 Boro
Sam Allardyce picked up his first Premier League win as Crystal Palace boss at Selhurst Park thanks to a man that aided his great escape at Sunderland. January signing, Patrick van Aanholt, scored the only goal of the game and lifted his new team out of the bottom three.
Mamadou Sakho made his debut and starred for the Eagles, helping the side to a first home clean sheet since December.
The margin of victory could have been bigger, but a shocking decision from referee Bobby Madley saw James McArthur booked for diving when a penalty award was the correct decision.
The New Guard
Just like after the Bournemouth game, I am not going to get carried away, but while this was not the best performance, there were definitely signs that we might just beat the drop yet. There are a few reasons for this.
Firstly, the introduction of Mamadou Sakho into the back-four. Quite simply, we are extremely lucky that we have picked him up. His gait makes him look clumsy, but he looked extremely assured whenever the ball came his way. You would never have guessed that this was his first game in ten months. For the first time since we have been in the Premier League, we have a real top quality centre-half, and this should raise the game of those around him.
Secondly, the balance of having an actual left-back is a big help. Further, Wilfried Zaha and Patrick van Aanholt already appear to have built up a good rapport which means that playing Wilfried out on the left is not as much of a waste as it was before the arrival of van Aanholt. In turn, this means that Andros Townsend can play on the right, where he looks more comfortable and has been performing much better in recent matches. Andros still has a long way to go before he convinces me that he can do something long term for us, but there has definitely been a step change in his attitude in recent weeks, and he earned the applause that he got when he came across to take a corner in front of Block B.
Finally, the insertion of Luka Milivojevic into the middle of the park is a god send. His calmness in front of the back four, with added tenacity when needed, had added more much-needed balance to the team. With the Serbian sitting, Jason Puncheon and Yohan Cabaye were able to express themselves a little more and resulted in both of them, in patches, having very good games. For an hour, Puncheon was certainly looking far more dangerous than he has in recent months. As for Cabaye, he was able to affect the game further up the pitch, and this can only lead to good things in the long term.
James McArthur “Diving”
The fact that James McArthur cannot have this yellow card overturned is a joke. What makes this decision even worse from referee Madley is that it is James McArthur. Surely the ref should be thinking, “is James the sort of player that is going to dive here?” Obviously, the answer is no. Thankfully the terrible decision didn’t cost us, but it could have, and we all know that the punishment for Madley would not have sufficed.
Finally, the ‘atmosphere’ section of my match report can return. Selhurst Park was back to its rocking best in this one. There was hardly a lull in the singing for the entire 90 minutes, and many of the players raved about our efforts in their respective post-match interviews.
From the start, We Love You had the whole ground singing and throughout, all four sides of the stadium would join in backing the team. By the end, "Don't Worry (about a thing)" had the four sides of the stadium in a buoyant and defiant mood.
The roar when the full-time whistle sounded was memorable, and every single person I could see was hugging someone next to them. To have that sort of togetherness back is a relief and long may it continue.
Man of the Match: Mamadou Sakho
I've already touched on him above, and his for the match below help to back up why many raved about his performance. Luka ran him close, but Sakho strength, willingness and general beast-like performance just pipped the Serbian for me. As for his post-match interview with Chris Grierson, he has also won me over as a man:
- 100% tackles won
- 92% pass accuracy
- 6 clearances
- 3 aerial duels won
- 1 clean sheet
Up Next: West Brom
We have not fared too well against Tony Pulis since he left us in the lurch and with the form that West Brom are currently experiencing, I think that it will prove tough to come away from the Hawthorns with anything. A point would be amazing.
I will not be attending this fixture as I will be at a wedding in New York. For all of the New York based Eagles, I will be watching the game in the Football Factory in Times Square. I hope to see you all there.
Come on you Palace!